We’re still in February and it’s been a rough year already.

We thought 2011 was bad. My best friend/lover/husband/sounding board and I hit one of those places in our marriage–you know what I’m talking about–where we’d look at each other and think (or even worse, say), “Who the hell are you, and what have you done with my husband/wife??!!”

Oh, we’ve gone to couples therapy before, for short-term help. And I mean really short-term. Sometimes we’d only need to meet with a referee counselor two or three times to get clear on our stuff. We jokingly referred to those interludes as ‘tune-ups’–just like a regular oil change to keep our partnership running smoothly.

This time, like our Subaru Forester, we went in for what we thought was an oil change, and ended up having to pull the engine. (No, we are no longer happy with Subaru.)

The repair process was simple, but not easy. If you want a year’s worth of couples counseling reduced down to a few suggestions, here are mine: Don’t assume–ask. Then listen to the answers. And don’t eat those restaurant leftovers unless you ask their owner first. (It’s one of those situations where preferring to ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission will backfire. Just trust me on this one.) Oh, and the biggie: Value the relationship over having to be right.

It was a tough process, but we’re on the home stretch. We can now afford to look back and say, “I almost lost you” and be amazed. A good thing.

So what could be worse than almost losing your marriage?

Almost losing your kids.

Last fall was the time of extreme anxiety. Finding out your kid is in an abusive relationship? It’s the worst (or so we thought.) We had to tread carefully, keeping doors open, staying grounded, trusting in….well, trust. Putting our faith in the love and trust we’d built over the years.

We were rewarded with a happy outcome. Our child is safe. Life is good. We’re moving on. We breathed a grateful prayer. 2012 was going to be so much better!

Then, a few weeks ago, we got ‘the phone call.’

It’s the one in the middle of the night, the one you never want to get.

The police telling us there had been an accident.

Before my heart could stop, the caller rushed to assure us, “He’s okay! He’s okay!”

We nearly lost our other kid. To a car accident so fierce, our aforementioned Subaru Forester would now probably fit inside a large refrigerator. I still can’t look at the pictures without choking up.

He’s okay. Or rather, he’ll be okay. Miraculously, though his injuries are numerous, he will recover fully. It will be a long, hard journey, but someday he will be able to put this behind him. And I am very aware that this is not always the case, for so many people or the families they leave behind… My heart breaks for them.

Of course, there are blessings in all of this. I learn from everything, even the bad stuff. But sometimes it’s just too….too. As one of my sisters said years ago, delirious with pain after burning her hand badly while dealing with a small kitchen fire, and listening to us all tell her how lucky for her it was her left hand, not her right, just her hand, not her life, just the kitchen and not the house, etc., “Well, I don’t feel so damned lucky!!”

I just spoke with my beloved hospice supervisor, Lorraine, who struggled to find the right words today. I finally said, “Oh, yeah, there are are blessings here…..DAMN IT!!! And we both burst out laughing.

But…there are blessings.

I am grateful we both believed our marriage was worth fighting for.
I am grateful that my kids know for sure how much we love them. Or, if one of them isn’t sure, we’re getting another chance to prove it to him.
I am grateful for the people who listened. Really, truly listened
I am grateful for the small courtesies received from friends, and family, and complete strangers.
I am so, so grateful for the people who do not judge.

I’ve learned a lot, too.

I know now that a good day doesn’t depend on the weather, or how much I got done, or what didn’t go wrong. Sometimes a good day is simply a day where nobody dies.

Some people think we are ‘bearing up’ well. It’s simple. I know now that there are times when you know the worst has already happened, and times where you know the worst might yet happen. The first is a piece of cake, compared to the latter. I know now that the latter is much, much scarier, and harder to bear.

I know now that no matter what you’re going through, there are other people who understand. Those powerful words of Rosanne Cash, from her book Composed: A Memoir, still resonate in my heart:

You begin to realize that everyone has a tragedy, and that if he doesn’t, he will. You realize how much is hidden beneath the small courtesies and civilities of everyday existence. Deep sorrows and traces of great loss run through everyone’s lives, and yet they let others step into the elevators first, wave them ahead in a line of traffic, smile and greet their children and inquire about their lives, and never let on for a second that they, too, have lain awake at night in longing and regret, that they, too, have cried until it seemed impossible that one person could hold so many tears, that they, too, keep a picture of someone locked in their heart and bring it out in quiet, solitary moments to caress and remember…

I’ve learned that people will judge. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, though. I want to say to them, “Look, if the universe slapped us down or tried to KILL US whenever we did something careless, there wouldn’t be too many of us still walking around…” But I know it’s just human nature. It’s how we convince ourselves that something like that would never happen to us, a way to distance ourselves, a way to protect ourselves. “Well, my kid/husband/daughter would never do that!” Really? Huh…..

Today, my wish for you is what I would wish for myself.

Today, may your blessings be small ones. Simple ones. Easy ones.
May they involve a hug or two, and perhaps a good laugh, and someone to share it with.
May you get a chance to learn something the easy way. Not the hard way.
And may you always get a second chance, another chance to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” To say, “Thank you.”

To say, “I love you.”

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

23 thoughts on “THE YEAR OF (PAINFUL) GROWTH”

  1. Dear Luann,

    Thank you so much for your honesty…I love your blog posts. You are so right that we all go through tough times, but it’s our friends and loved ones who help to pull us through those times…So thankful for those who are there to let us know that no matter what, we are loved.

    So glad that all is on the upward path for you now. Many blessings to you dear Luann.


  2. (((((((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))))) to my Friend, Luann……………..
    you have reached the top of the hill, so ride the flying saucer down and “Take Time to Enjoy the Little Things.”


  3. I didn’t realize until the end of your blog that I was holding my breath…I am so glad that things are better now for your family. I have always looked forward to your posts about your life; while scary/sad this one was no exception. Bless you for sharing with us.


  4. This must have been a difficult post to write. It must have been difficult to decide to write it.
    Bless you for sharing. I wish you and your family only the best.
    Reaching out to hug you.


  5. Hugs to you and your family, Luann! Hoping the worst is behind you and the best is yet to come.

    And wishing a rapid recovery for your son and daughter, from the close calls each of them has gone through. I’m so glad you still have both of them.


  6. One foot in front of the other…somedays that is all we can do or even expect from others. With the sorrows come the joys, glad you have everyone around to enjoy. Loved Composed.


  7. Some days it comes down to one breath at a time.Each moment just “Being” and breathing.I can relate.
    Love to you and yours


  8. Thank you for sharing this! I absolutely 100% can relate…life is so messy, but it is all we humans have, so we must live every bit of it. Sending you amazing hugs and healing meditation! You are the best, because you are real!


  9. You have beautiful ability to distill the essence of life into writing….and that truth touches my heart. And just as important is your ability to share the fact that seeing that truth is sometimes very hard. To express wisdom and vulnerability at the same time is a true gift. May you and your family find the peace that is always tucked between the drama of life.


  10. Luann, my heart goes out to you and your family. I wish only the best for you and thank you for being able to express what must have felt unexpressable. May you and your family make rapid recoveries.


  11. Blessings to you and your family, Miss Luann. You always give me much to think of when I come here, which is why I always return so eagerly awaiting a nugget of truth to jump out and bite me. Today I didn’t have to read too far into it. May 2012 be a year of small blessings that when strung together dazzle you with their brilliance.
    This post perfectly embodies my favorite quote: “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.” Find your ‘something good’ every day.
    Enjoy the day.


  12. Today was my first visit, and I actually went to one of your Artist Tip, via a link from Facebook. I decided to hit home to visit your overall blog and this post was so beautiful and real. Thank you, and may God Bless you and your family. You are a strong woman, continue to be the strong woman that you are. The Lord brought you through and will continue to.


  13. I am so glad that Doug is recovering !! I feel your PAIN as any mother would. I admire your ability to move forward and tackle each day and still do ART !!!
    Please do not give up your gift that you were meant to do. I think sometimes it’s hard as a woman to put FAMILY first when there are so many other things we need to do. Take care of yourself ……your family needs you !!!


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